Higher Ed Policy Roundup

Week of March 27, 2017

This Week In Washington

This week, the Chairs and Ranking Members of both the House Education and the Workforce Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee sent a letter to Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, requesting the Department of Education (ED) take any appropriate steps to assist students while the IRS’ Data Retrieval Tool is unavailable.  The letter noted that the tool is a “more efficient and accurate” way to input financial data for various financial aid services, and that the tool’s absence could lead to delays in processing.  Lawmakers stressed that ED should “take action to help alleviate complications for students,” and that ED should brief the committees on its progress toward helping students during the tool’s outage.

Late Thursday, ED released a statement informing the public that the Data Retrieval Tool will be offline until the beginning of the next FAFSA season. ED also outlined various options for students to move forward with their financial aid process, including how to retrieve prior tax year documents and suggesting manual entry of financial information. ED also provided additional information to users who may have been affected by the security lapse.

After releasing its ‘skinny budget’ for fiscal year (FY) 2018 a few weeks ago, the Trump administration provided Congressional appropriators details on $18 billion of possible cuts for 2017.  Included in their proposal to cut $3 billion from education programs is a $1.3 billion cut to the Pell Grant program.  While the proposed spending reductions signal where the administration’s priorities lie, Congressional appropriators seem unlikely to adopt any of the recommendations in the middle of this fiscal year and would prefer to quickly resolve FY 2017 bills and move on to FY 2018 funding.

News You Can Use

In response to a lawsuit filed by the American Bar Association in December for retroactively rescinding employment certification under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, the U.S Department of Education argues that approvals by its loan servicer do not reflect final agency action on the borrower’s qualifications for PSLF.

Over the past three years, inflation-adjusted student debt has declined at 71 percent of the 163 law schools examined.

Law schools are slowly raising tuition, but scholarship awards may be increasing at a faster pace.

Congress and the U.S. Department of Education are unclear on a strategy to roll back higher education-related regulations.

American Enterprise Institute fellow, Jason Delisle, argues that if Republicans want to reduce the scope of the federal student loan program, then lawmakers should eliminate the Grad PLUS loan program and enable the private market to lend to graduate students.

A study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that participation in income-based repayment plans led to fewer student loan defaults after the 2008 recession for enrolled borrowers.

Recent Legislation

The following bill was introduced this week for consideration by the 115th Congress:

S. 749 – Transparency in Student Lending Act [Sen. Michael Enzi (R-WY)] would require the disclosure of the annual percentage rates to federal student loan borrowers.